It is always easier to anticipate, or watch, someone else fall, than to do personal reflection. The public can say: See, they are just like me — or worse.
So, the tabloid-nurtured masses missed the import of John Edwards’ recent true confession: (left, with his wife, Elizabeth, and activist actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon). It wasn’t about the affair, it was about his inner awakening:
I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.
A confession’s value is less about outward behavior than about inner awareness. Few of us, when we confess to something, actually do the work of contrition and ultimate repentence (turning around) that produces growth.
Most public confessions are about, “OK, I did it, now let me go.”
In contrast, Edwards’ statement suggests a desire both to keep an appropriate boundary between himself and family and the media — and an equally dense desire to work on himself to correct the failings he has observed in himself.
We rarely see in a public figure this sort of willingness to enter into self-examination, let alone a determination to grow. Consider Bill Clinton, or Larry Craig.
Nor does the media take note when self-awareness leads to metanoia. Media commentators are painting Reille Hunter as a flake or a floozy. But just as Edwards is now having an inner awakening in self-awareness, she had claimed to have had an awakening of her own shortly before meeting him. If her description of entering a passage of realization can be taken at face value, there’s a kind of X-Factor logic for her dynamic with John Edwards becoming a catalyst for the same kind of experience in him.
As with individuals, the media tends to feed an eagerness to escape from looking within by focusing on the “exploits” of others, especially those with higher profiles.
I imagine that readers here know more about how personal mistakes or “bad” choices often lead (and perhaps are even intended to lead) to the inner work of personal growth.
Carl Jung developed the concept that we sometimes actually create a situation that sets up a strong tension in order to “force” us to do the work of growing to a new level of consciousness.
I hope, for John Edward’s sake and for the sake of the issues he champions, his journey will indeed lead to greater conscious growth. And I hope for the rest of us that the media frenzy will dissipate, and that we can get back to concentrating on the issues that really matter.
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